What to do in the design capital of the Netherlands.

It’s easy to get lost in Amsterdam—the concentric canals all start to look the same after a while. But it may just be the most pleasant place in the world to lose your way (save for the red light district, of course, unless joining up with a Belgian bachelor party for the night was on your travel wish list). The storybook streets are lined with quaint heritage buildings, often home to very un-heritage causes: museums with a modernist bent, forward-thinking design shops and studios for global tastemakers.

7 Things to Do in Amsterdam

moooi-amsterdam-full_cmyk_1957Go down the rabbit hole

Stepping into the Moooi flagship store is like a visit to Wonderland headquarters: rugs printed with insects line the floors and life-sized horse lamps stand tall in living room tableaux. Shop the full collection and linger to perhaps catch a glimpse of Moooi founder and design icon Marcel Wanders, whose office is just upstairs from the showroom.

droogGet weird

Droog’s shop is a collection of playful pieces big and small that blur the line between product and art—chairs made of rags, tablecloths printed with the aftermath of a dinner party, lamps that stick to the wall . . . even custom eyeglasses. Overwhelmed by choice? Book a stay at the attached quirky one-bedroom hotel and sleep on it.

stedelijk-museum-full_cmyk_3983Visit a must-see museum

There are a million museums in Amsterdam, but the Stedelijk is the ideal place to start: it’s the largest modern design and contemporary art museum in the Netherlands, all inside a striking glass building locals have affectionately nicknamed “the Bathtub.”

andazamsterdam-lobbyPeople-watch on the Prinsengracht

Grab a cocktail (and some pickled herring, if you’re feeling peckish) at the Andaz Amsterdam and pull up a seat window-side to watch the passersby—if you can tear your eyes away from the Marcel Wanders-designed interiors, that is.

frozenfountainSpend all your money

It’s hard to walk away from the Frozen Fountain without buying anything: it’s packed with vintage furniture, designer lighting and pop-art-print wallets. Spread across two buildings, the selection seems to stretch on forever.

amsterdam-light-festivalLight up the night

The Amsterdam Light Festival runs every November, and it’s up to you to explore it on foot or with a canal cruise that takes you up close and personal to the water-centric installations.

ambassade-hotel-leonardoCheck in to some culture

It’s hard to choose a hotel in Amsterdam. For a regal vibe, the waterfront Ambassade Hotel is a repurposed townhome with a cozy library bar and a killer restaurant, Brasserie Ambassade. For something a little quirkier, try the Lloyd, a former prison hospital reinvented as a hipster hotel: old photos hanging in the stairwell on the way to your room, but luxe linens for comfort.

Lloyd Hotel.

GETTING THERE KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It’s worth treating yourself to World Business Class just to use the Marcel Wanders-designed tableware, snag a Viktor and Rolf amenity kit and actually catch some shut-eye in the full-flat seats. 

Want more Dutch travel tips? Check out our guide to Groningen, the Netherlands’ most cycle-friendly city.